He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

C30, C60, C74 Go

A few weeks ago I heard an announcement that was something of a surprise, the statement that the MP3 was dead. Whilst I've no doubt that people will still continue to use it for a good while to come, this adds another format to the dead-list, along with cassettes, vinyl*, CD, minidisc, DCC, 8-track and wax cylinder.

Whilst I'll confess I've bought the odd digital download, I still like to have the physical media to add to my collection. My 600+ CD collection continues to grow and I routinely trawl Discogs for other second-hand discs to add to my shelves. I can't see that changing for foreseeable future.

With the death of these formats, there's something else that's been lost along the way - the mixtape.

In my teenage years, the mixtape was one of those things that we all did for our friends and loved ones. Back in the height of the cassette format, I remember many attempts to put together the perfect mix of music on a C60 or C90 (C120s weren't such great quality and used to snap quite easily). The challenge of putting together a mix that used up every second on a side of a C60 was a fun one. Unfortunately in the world of streaming services this just doesn't seem to work in the same way. There's something quite tangible and personal about making your own tape to give to somebody else.

I will confess, however, that I still like to make a slightly-more-modern day equivalent of the mixtape - using minidisc.

Minidisc was a format that was declared dead by Sony back in 2013, although in some areas it's still alive and kicking. Some recording studios continue to use the format and it's still popular in journalism, which is why they still get a good price on sites such as eBay. A standard recordable minidisc contains 74 minutes of music and seems nicely reminiscent of C60/C90 cassettes, albeit with some funky editing facilities. A physical time constraint still remains and time is still required to record the contents.

I bought my minidisc recorder back in 2001 and it's still going strong. My machine, an MZ-R700, is still by modern standards a relatively small device. It nicely fits in the pocket, runs for days on a single AA battery and can record up to five hours on a single disc (although the quality isn't great at that level). I've also got a tiny plug-in microphone, which is ideal if you want to discretely record and make your own bootleg gigs - and blank, new discs can still be bought. Sound dead? No, not really.

As you can see below, it still has its uses - such as recording your vinyl to a format that you can listen to elsewhere….

I have no doubt that the MP3 format will continue to be used for many years to come. Whilst I buy the odd AAC/MP4 track from iTunes, I'm a luddite at heart and still like having some form of physical media to collect - and should iTunes/Amazon/Spotify/whoever go to the wall one day, I'll still have something to show for it. Ultimately, though, I'm convinced that there's no such thing as a dead music format. I'll still rip and burn CDs, I'll still use the MP3 format and I'll still make up my own mix-tape minidiscs. The technology sector is a fickle one and there's already a successor to the current MP4/AAC format on the horizon. Are we going to bin our old iTunes downloads and buy this new format instead in a few years time? I hope not.

Don't believe what the industry tells you. A music format is only dead when you stop using it.

* - Yes, yes, I know vinyl isn't totally dead - but it's definitely "niche".

I Made A Thing.

I've been using my Pi Model-A as a simple car "radio" for nearly eighteen months now and it's required zero maintenance, apart from an occasional content update. I'd call that a success. It's simplicity is its strength, it's outlived one car already.

If there's one thing I like about the Raspberry Pi community, it's the way in which everyone shares their knowledge. For that reason, I've decided to make my RavensPi SD Card image available for others to use and abuse. All you need to get going is some audio. I've slimmed it down as much as possible and it now weighs in as a 327MB download, nearly a third of a new Wheezy image. I've also created a "Projects" page, which gives you further information on how you can customise it for your own use - and if you learn something from the experience, that can't be bad.

The standard disclaimer applies - I'm providing an image for your Pi, nothing else. If your house burns down, you're struck by a meteorite or you start thinking the Daily Mail is quality journalism, then it's not my fault. You're on your own. Don't start running life-critical systems with it, mmmkay?

You can find details on my RavensPi project here. Have fun with it - and let me know what you create with it!

Lend Me Your Ears

How well do music identification apps work? I try out three different services… Read More...


Here’s the details of my second Pi project - an MP3-based radio player that I’ve installed into my car stereo. Read More...


You can get always get something for nothing - but should you? Read More...

Ear Worms

Star-Trek, mental health and The Who - just another average blog post. Read More...

The Mix-Tape

If ever there was a post that’s taken me ages to write, it’s this one. Still, at least you get a bit of music whilst you read... Read More...

A Musical Void

Unless I’m very much mistaken, everyone loves music - it’s an intensely personal thing. Our music tastes are influenced in so many different ways, but the preferences we have in our adult life tend to be formed from what our parents liked, the music that was around in our teenage years and our idols. We all have our idols, oh yes - false or otherwise.

My parents were dedicated Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and Fleetwood Mac fans, which deeply influenced my music taste. I still play Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon with fond affection, but ultimately as a teenager I craved something new, original and unheard of by the masses. I actively made a point of shying away from the mainstream.

As a teenager, you make a point of researching new things - it’s all an essential part of forming your identity. John Peel became one of my idols. The discovery of his evening weekend show meant that I could tap into a new resource of unheard music. Whilst my peers were generally getting their fill of bland Stock Aitken & Waterman pap, I was taping Ride, The Wedding Present, Prophecy of Doom and Diblo Dibala off the radio. Even now, a quick five-minute youtube shot of Mr Dibala1 strutting his stuff still manages to put a smile on my face irrespective of mood. Freaky.

Throughout his career, John Peel was an extremely influential DJ. Many bands that he initially championed ended up becoming legends in their own right - Pulp, The Orb, Nirvana, T-Rex, The Smiths to name but a few. As I got older and Radio 1’s schedule changed, I became comforted in the knowledge that at some point in the week, I could tune in to his irreverent broadcasting style and get a few new musical names to research. He played records at the wrong speed, got track names wrong and left big silences in his programmes - but it didn’t matter, because ultimately his passion for all forms of music was infectious.

It would be fair to say that when John Peel died back in 2004, I felt a void in my life and didn’t listen to the radio much for a while. Unfortunately, Radio 1 went on to fill the gap in their schedule with a few people who didn’t really quite fit the bill. Sure, Zane Lowe had some interesting stuff, but it wasn’t the same. I felt the need to start researching alternatives.

I discovered a “closest match” - in the form of BBC Radio 6. Whilst nothing will ever quite sound like Mr Peel, the one thing that immediately comes over is the DJs passion for music, as well as the diversity of their playlists. It’s about as close as one is likely to get.

Unfortunately, there are several reports in the papers that BBC Radio 6 is going to be axed - I’m not entirely sure why. Admittedly, the station only has about three quarters of a million listeners, but as it’s cheap for the BBC to run, I don’t understand how this is such a big deal. It looks positively frugal when you compare it to the costs of keeping the likes of Moyles and Mills running.

I’m really hoping this isn’t the case. I can’t have been alone in my teenage quest to hunt down new, non-mainstream offerings. BBC Radio 6 is the probably the best option for a whole wave of new people to investigate and listen to a diverse range of new music, that unfortunately Radio 1 now fails to offer, mainly because it’s playlists have become so narrow and are largely filled with expensive DJs, who to be honest, don’t inform, educate or entertain as much as they should. In their quest for ratings, they’ve sacrificed a diverse schedule.

I’m hoping that you’re in agreement with me. I’ve made it known to the BBC that I’m dissatisfied with their potential proposal to close the station down and I hope you will join me - before we lose a musical gem that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. As Phil Jupitus said, “The end of 6 Music at this moment in the BBC's history is not only an act of cultural vandalism, it's also an affront to the memory of John Peel and a slap in the face to thousands of licence-payers.”. He’s right.

1 - Yes, all Diblo Dibala’s stuff sounds similar - manically jolly guitar accompanied with an entourage of formation dancing girls. Love it or loathe it, you’ve got to admit he was one hell of a musician.

From The Ashes

What music has had an instrumental/memorable part in your life? Read More...


If you'd like a chuckle, follow this link (*clicky*) and have a read of the reviews of Katie Price/Peter Andre's album, "A whole new world". It's good to see the art of sarcasm is not wasted upon this talentless couple. No doubt the reviews will probably get pulled in a couple of days....

Read the reviews and weep with laughter.

Quotes include:

"Restored my eyesight after 36 years"
"I cried strange tears"
"Saved me from killing myself"
"Blew my testicles off"

Zero 7 - The Garden

The Garden - Album Cover

The other day, I happened to be at the store of a certain music retailer, when I heard the first track of this album, futures, playing. Apart from the fact that it sounded distinctly like Zero 7's chilled out low-fi sound, the other thing that struck me was Jose Gonzalez's distinctive voice on vocals - and on that basis, I shelled out a tenner and bought the album. Hardly rocket-science, I know, but in listening to this album you start to think that actually Jose Gonzalez does provide the ideal voice. left behind Is yet another track that is typically Jose Gonzalez and wouldn't sound out of place on an album of his own work.

This album provides many tracks that are what you know Zero 7 for, such as throw it all away and this fine social scene - unobtrusive and chilled. They've occasionally tried something new too, with wobbly synth in you're my flame, which sound like something that's possibly come from an 80's arcade game - but it works.

Where Gonzelez has enhanced the album with his vocal talent, it's a shame the same couldn't have been reciprocated on one of his tracks. There's a rehash of Crosses on here and perhaps because I've heard the original so many times, I can't get my head around this one. It was perfect as it was. If there's a track I'll skip, it'll be that one. It's far too busy.

The album won't set the world on fire, but it's a good listen if you're after something that's a relaxed affair. It's well produced and it won't be gathering dust on my CD shelves.

Overall: 3.5/5

Jose Gonzalez - Veneer

Veneer Album Cover

I'd never heard of this guy before, but about a month ago I listened to a couple of tracks on a certain music store's "listening post" and fell in love with the album there. The music feels personal and conveys emotion - a stark contrast to most of the manufactured shit that appears to be churned out at the moment.

This album is just half an hour long and is simply a guy and a guitar, but it doesn't matter. If anything, that's the beauty. It's one of those albums best listened to when you're chilled out in a darkened room, with nothing but a pair of quality headphones for company. It's only April, but I'd rate this as possibly one of the best albums of the year - other artists will have to go some to beat this.

As a random nugget of info, I understand that the track "Hearbeats" has been used in a Sony advert - as someone who doesn't have a telly, this piece of trivia is wasted on me, but it might mean something to you if you've heard it before, but couldn't work out the artist.

Anyway - buy it. And if you want to listen beforehand, you can do so in two places.

Clicky *here* and you can listen to a few full tracks.
Clicky *here* and you can sample a bit of all of the album tracks.

Go on, bugger off and have a look now.

Coldplay - X&Y (2005/Parlophone)

X & Y Album Cover

"Their best yet", say NME. Well, at least, that's what the sticker on the cover says. Reading that, your expectations are high from the start.

I've listened to this album, many, many times. Normally, this would be because it's what I call a "grower" and the more you listen to it, the better it gets, but in this case I'm listening to it a good few times so I can get my head round why every other review I've seen seems to like it. Perhaps I don't get it?

Don't get me wrong, there's some damn good tracks on there. Square One, What If and White Shadows give you the impression that the little sticker means something, but then you get to Fix You.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Whinging vocals, almost sounding like another group doing a parody of Coldplay, I can't get through the first minute without skipping the track. Quite simply, it grates on my nerves. Forty-five seconds, tops, and I've gone on to Talk, which manages to claw back a little bit of credibility.

The title track doesn't really do much to help, either. This is blandness incarnate.

Does Speed of Sound sound just a bit like Clocks but with less soul? You be the judge....

The only remaining track that I can say has something good to it, is Low, which has a nice edgy sound, but by the time you've got this far, you'll probably not want to bother listening much further. Go to the bonus track if you want to hear something a little bit more like old style Coldplay, but there's not much here to ensure you play on repeat.

I've listened, listened and listened and tried to be fair, but this album is bland, offering little new from the previous two offerings. Some of it is quite simply overproduced and I can see this will probably replace the Lighthouse Family as the music that's universally played in elevators and department stores everywhere. This will be the anthem to all sales execs driving their Mondeos everywhere. Avoid. You won't be missing much. Mediocre at best.

Overall: 2/5